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Anger Unleashed: From killing animals to vegan warrior

activist, author, former political prisoner


Danny Nichols – Vegan, Anarchist, Animal Liberation Warrior

Danny Nichols grew up in a small town country setting, but not a farm. Over the years, his family raised some pigs, chickens, rabbits, a couple goats and had dogs that lived outside. His father was a Vietnam Vet who likely suffered from PTSD. Young Danny and his siblings were frequently beat with a belt, willow tree switch, or whatever was handy. The brothers were also raised to fish and hunt. In this rivetingly-honest interview, he discusses his harrowing childhood memories of watching “excrement and guts spilling out of his victim” and  takes us on his personal journey to enlightenment. He discusses justice, anti-oppression, a vision of true freedom for all, and he has ideas about how we might get there. If other share Danny’s anger, channel it to force change and be proud and unapologetic; every one of us needs to be using our own unique strengths in the war for Animal Liberation.

Camille Marino: Thank you for talking to me and discussing such personal issues. Do you remember your thoughts or feelings as a young boy the first time you were expected to kill an animal?

Danny Nichols: The earliest memory I have of killing animals is going fishing. I would guess I was ten or younger. I remember the excitement of reeling in a large bass and my dad and grandpa were also excited and very congratulatory; but I also remember stabbing the hook through the worms we used as bait and it was slimy and gross, with the poor worm’s excrement and guts spilling out. That was the part you always just tuned out. I also found it gross scaling the still alive, squirming fishes. It was slimy and they’d flop like hell trying to escape. Then we would cut their heads off with a knife and I remember the crunching sounds. Then we’d cut open their bellies and clean out the guts. All gross. Growing up in a hunting/fishing (murdering) family, any discomforts about it all are expected to be ignored. It’s all just “part of the process” that is never questioned, and of course it is to never be questioned whether any of it is necessary at all. Society as a whole never questions it either, so what reason would I have had to question it as a young kid who knew he’d get a beating anyway for talking back to my father? My earliest hunting memory was the first rabbit I shot. It was also exciting. I followed the rabbit with my sights and then shot him as he jumped over a log. It wasn’t exciting holding his legs in the garage as my dad peeled his fur off his body, exposing the red flesh beneath. Then, same as with the fish, there was the crunching of bones and the process of removing the guts. That was the process for the squirrels, pheasants, deer, or any other animal of our choosing we murdered. A lot of people say, “Oh, I could never do that!”. You’d be amazed at what your parents can get you to do when you’re taught to do it from a young age and you’re also afraid of when the next beating will come. Fear and tradition are responsible for so much horror in this world.

CM: A lot of hunters pass down their blood lust to their children as a “sport.” Do you think this is a form of child abuse?

DN: Absolutely it is a form of child abuse. I mean if anyone here in the U.S. raised their children to go around blowing away dogs and cats and put it on the internet, it would go viral, and the public would be mortified, demanding the children be taken away. Once we drop our speciesist thinking, we realize it is no less sadistic to teach children to blow away rabbits, birds, raccoons, deer, squirrels, or any other being. A lot of people claim to do it ‘to help feed the family”. That’s total bullshit. The amount of money they spend on guns, ammo, licenses, etc. could easily buy a ton of beans and rice. Plus, back to the analogy, what if they claimed they needed to shoot cats and dogs to feed the family? The public would be mortified.

CM: What brought you from your family’s views to your current thinking about animal liberation? Was there an event that made the light bulb go on or was it an evolution of thought and exploration?

DN: It was sort of an evolution of thought, in that I was already on a mission to discover why the world is the way it is, and if there was anything I could do about my anger. At around age 30 I started reading a lot of books because I wanted answers about this crazy world. I’ve always been curious and liked to dig into philosophical questions. At age 32, I met a vegetarian and was on the way to the library to look up a few things about vegetarian nutrition, when my roommate suggested I should watch some PETA videos. The first one I watched was, “Meet Your Meat”. It was the first time I had ever seen the horrific abuse that goes on in the meat, dairy, and egg industries. I was PISSED! Seeing the pigs getting beaten with those metal rods reminded me very much of the beatings I got as a kid with belts, sticks, or whatever. But I was also in the middle of training for my first ultramarathon, so my logical brain had to ask, “But don’t we need to eat animals?” It didn’t take very long to debunk that myth once I discovered there are winning professional vegan ultramarathon runners, body builders, triathletes, etc… I spent the rest of the afternoon digging into everything; entertainment, experiments, clothing, “sport”, circuses, rodeos, zoos, silk, leather, wool, down, all of it. I was just blown away that such huge lies go completely unquestioned. I read the entire book, Mad Cowboy by Howard Lyman, that afternoon. I read how he went from being a third generation cattle rancher to a vegan activist. I read the definition of what vegan was and I decided that was me. I would do my best as far as practical and possible to never exploit or harm animals ever again. I stepped out of the library that day and the world hasn’t looked the same since. I always get pissed when people make excuses for animal use/abuse because I figure if I can go straight to vegan without having ever heard the word before, then certainly anyone can. I was even pronouncing the word wrong the first few weeks until someone corrected me. Over the last 11 years I’ve been homeless a few times, lived in the woods for a spell, and have been part of the working class poor. I’ve never found it difficult for a second because I’ve always thought about the animals.

CM: How can we reach kids who are being groomed in 4H, as hunters, or any other abuse industry? I guess I’m wondering if you think there’s any kind of internal conflict they may have that you think we could or should seize on.

DN: It’s very hard to reach younger children that live with and depend on their parents. They can’t realistically run away and live on their own. Parents and society have a stronghold on children’s minds. I think there’s a natural internal conflict, like the excitement I got from the impersonal killing to then being grossed out by the very personal blood and guts aspect of it. I think had I gotten the information sooner, maybe age 16 or so, I most likely would have ran away from home and taken my dog. I think the most hope lies with teenage to college age “kids” getting more and more information and then hopefully doing what is right. The toughest thing about breaking away from brainwashing is that people want so badly to believe that their parents, siblings, teachers, politicians, doctors, and clergymen are good people. It’s hard to reconcile that once you realize they’re apathetic to the suffering of animals. I was way past that age when I went vegan. I already knew about a lot of the evil and apathy in the world prior, so I already knew a lot of people aren’t as great as we thought they were.

CM:  You identify as an anarchist. I’ve seen a lot of anarchists who vehemently claim to be anti-oppression while they munch on a burger behind a keyboard. Can you tell me what anarchism means to you?

DN: Anarchism is basically veganism applied to humans: You don’t put people in cages, steal their stuff, involuntarily exploit them, or coerce them through fear tactics. People have been taught that it’s chaos or anti-government. It’s pro freedom. Real freedom. Sure, anti-government is a part of it, because it is being against all oppression. Real freedom allows for self defense and defense of the innocent. Yes, it is very hypocritical to call oneself an anarchist while not recognizing other species also deserve 100% freedom. I’ve actually had the most civil discussions about animal rights with anarchists. The thing with anarchy is that it’s hard for people to grasp how there could be any type of order without oppression, the same way people couldn’t wrap their minds around how slaves could survive once freed. The first thing is to do the right thing, then things will fall into place. It’s not about creating a utopia. It’s about ending systemic oppression by governments, religions, crony corporatism, etc. And yes, I admit, it does take quite the imagination to envision such a world so drastically different. I look at schools of fish in the ocean and flocks of birds. They don’t live in a utopia, but they don’t generally oppress each other either. They just live and let live and defend themselves to the best of their ability if they need to.

CM: Your response almost makes me want to identify as an anarchist. 🙂 I’ve sensed for a long time that your anger is genuine and deep. I understand now from where it comes. What is your approach to changing the world and fighting for animal liberation? Are there any actions you can discuss without jeopardizing yourself or your work?

DN: Yes, my anger is very genuine and very deep. I was already angry about how the world works even before I looked into animal rights. I could just always feel that there was something wrong. I already knew growing up that parents beat their kids and more often than not the law does nothing. I even had a sheriff sit right in front of me and tell me a parent can smack their kids across the face as much as they want as long as they don’t leave any marks. After looking into animal rights and realizing the mountain of oppression this world was built upon, I will never look at humans the same way. I wonder if we’ll ever change or if we were a biological mistake. So many humans could watch a slaughterhouse video or film from a vivisection lab then go out 5 minutes later and buy a steak and shampoo tested on rabbits. That doesn’t sit well with me. Can we ever get through to someone like that? Maybe in a few cases, but on a mass scale? I don’t know. I guess that’s the trillion dollar question. I do know I support all measures to help get us there. To be serious about animal rights is to imagine if all those victims being human children, then what lengths would you be willing to go to for them to be free of suffering? Would anything be “going too far” to free a trillion human children from getting skinned alive or boiled alive? I’m not saying everyone needs to take drastic measures. What I’m saying is that by condemning any measure, we are just prolonging the suffering and exploitation of the innocent. (You can edit this out if you want) I remember you once saying it wouldn’t bother you if vivisector’s kids got kidnapped, or something along those lines. I was applauding the fuck out of that. How would they like it if it were their kids in those cages?

CM: Thank you so much for doing this. Is there anything you’d like to add that we haven’t discussed.

DN: Yes, I’d like to touch on basic human decency which should come from having a few basic principles practiced consistently. If everyone just did that, this world would be a lot better for the animals, humans, and the environment.
Quite simply, the golden rule should be the only principle we ever need. What if everyone really treated everyone else the way they wanted to be treated? I mean EVERYONE: Other species, children, strangers you’ve never met. Who would be in a cage then? Who would be brainwashed into any religions then? Who could ever pollute a lake? Who would shoot an innocent deer? Who would contribute to any institution that enables wars? Who would stand by while any of that was happening? We can’t have that kind of world without judgement and accountability.

I’m a huge advocate of justice. Justice is just leaving others alone to live their lives if they’re not harming anyone else. My wish is that some day humans will learn to simply leave others alone.

 

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